Thanks for the news, Jeff. Let's hope Ryan will be as good as, if not better, than April Heinrichs.
In the interim, here's an article on another USA regular, Christie Welsh.
Christie Welsh, left, is part of the United States national team preparing for the 2007 World Cup in China.
Photo: Paulo Duarte/Associated Press
American Among Friends in France
by Jack Bell - source: nytimes. com
Published: April 10, 2005
When Christie Welsh was a youngster, her father accidentally entered her in a beauty pageant, believing he had signed her up to play baseball in the Little Miss Little League.
"They gave me No. 13 and my mom kept telling me it was really bad luck," Welsh said on her Web site. "I ended up winning this beauty pageant thing, and from that point on, I always wanted to wear No. 13."
Until now, that is. In her new job playing for Olympique Lyonnais in France, Welsh "wears whatever jersey they give me because they just sort of toss them out," she said.
As a junior at Penn State in 2001, Welsh, a striker from Massapequa Park, N.Y., won the Hermann Trophy as player of the year in women's college soccer. She also played in the defunct Women's United Soccer Association for her hometown New York Power. She has parachuted in and out of the United States national team program the past couple of years.
In landing softly in a field of clover last month, Welsh scored five goals and led the United States to its third straight championship at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. She is part of a changing of the guard that is likely to transform the national team as it prepares for the 2007 World Cup in China without a domestic professional league as a backstop.
On Friday, Greg Ryan, who picked Welsh for the team when he coached the United States in the Algarve, was named the coach of the women's national team.
"Training in Lyon definitely helped my performance in Portugal," Welsh said recently in a telephone interview from France. "It has been especially nice to have the other American girls here so we can all do things together. Our practices with the team have been filled with a lot of playing, which I think has only benefited all of us."
The absence of a women's professional league in the United States, and the unlikely prospects for resuscitating the W.U.S.A., have sent American players to Germany, Sweden, England and France. Lyon engineered a package deal in December, signing Welsh, goalkeeper Hope Solo, defender Danielle Slaton and midfielders Lorrie Fair and Aly Wagner. Last year, Welsh and Solo played for different teams in Sweden.
Their six-month contracts, which pay about $30,000 through the end of the season, include housing and two cars for the five women. They live in a residential hotel within walking distance of Lyon's stadium and first-class training facilities.
The men's team from Lyon, a city in eastern France, is on track to win its fourth straight title in the country's top division and has advanced to the quarterfinals of the European Champions League. The Lyon women are unlikely to win the French title this season, but the city is committed to building a top women's team as continental club competitions become more important in Europe.
Last summer, Welsh was one of the last players cut from the United States Olympic team by April Heinrichs, the former national team coach. The team went on to win the gold medal in Athens. (Welsh was also one of the final cuts in 2000, when the United States won a silver medal in Sydney, Australia.)
On the long drive home from tryouts in California, Welsh received an offer she couldn't refuse.
"I was heartbroken," Welsh, 24, said. "I thought I had played the very best I could. It was very hard. On the way home I got a call about Sweden. My coach from Penn State once asked me about playing overseas, and I said that I didn't think that's me. But when I got the call, I decided I was ready for something new."
For many players - first men, now women - the notion of going to Europe to play soccer has been like the Holy Grail, confirmation that they have made it in the world's sport. But leaving home, friends, family and familiarity may not be for everyone. Welsh admits that she has struggled with the language and a different approach to the game at Lyon.
"You can look at it two ways: that we are being forced to go overseas to play soccer, but then at the same time it is great, a privilege to play soccer in Europe, that we are wanted," Welsh said.
"I am glad to have this opportunity, but I would love and hope that something happens with the league at home so I don't have to keep uprooting my life to keep doing this.
She added: "In Sweden, English is like their second language. As Americans, it's hard for us to come over here. We're used to having a set schedule and set plans. Here things seem to be much more spur of the moment. That's O.K., but you have to be ready for it. Things are slower. Things happen, but only when they sort of get around to it."